We did not realize that our small acts of resistance at Nakem Conference, if you can call it this way, were acts that take their energy from other people doing the same thing for their own people and for others, such as Myles Horton for Highlander School, and Paulo Freire for his theory and practice of liberatory education, his ‘pedagogy of the oppressed.’14 We realized later on that this rendering of the sense of nation of the smaller ‘nations’ within a nation-state into something obsolete and unnecessary is a tactic of all nation-states to centralize and consolidate their full control of the personal and collective lives of their peoples, so that in their full control and consolidation, they can project that the life of their own nation-state has primordial value over the life of that nation-state’s constituent indigenous communities. Philippine historical narrative is replete with this official positioning, with Manuel Luiz Quezon preferring a Philippine nation run like hell by Filipinos to a Philippine nation run like heaven by other people but that nation that is in his mind was patterned after the 19th century nation-state of Europe particularly England, Germany, France, and Spain—nation-states all that consolidated power by invoking oneness minus plurality of cultural lives and that took up the task of implementing an officially sanctioned ‘national’ language.15
A Practice of Denial, A Practice of Confrontation
What we have for long in the Philippines, even as we sanctified the nation-state project and even as we give entitlements and privileges to other languages, is the continuing denial that this country, that this homeland, is not only the homeland of a few but a homeland of the many that is us, the many and varied ethnic groups—each individually unique—that are called Filipinos, yes the many that are called by other names such as Ilokanos, Cebuanos, Hiligaynons, Bicols, Kapampangan, Pangasinense, Chavacanos, Ivatans, Kalanguyas, and so forth.
It is this denial of our cultural and linguistic diversity that has set us into full speed in turning every one of us Filipinos first, with our cultural citizenship fully denied in lieu of that political citizenship. 16 16 Aurelio Agcaoili, “Studies of the Amianan: Towards the Production of Amianan Knowledge, A Critical Introduction,” in A. Agcaoili, ed., Nakem: Essays in Amianan Knowledge (Honolulu: UHM Ilokano Language and Literature Program, 2008).
And in that full speed—in that mad rush to ‘Filipinize’ us, we have taken to task the promoting and entitling and privileging of a ‘national’ language that we know—or least some of us know—was based on a lie, ‘a criminal act’ 17—and then leaving out each of our other—now systemically ‘othered’ languages in the cold, marginalized, calling them an obstacle to our unity and solidarity and progress. Some uninformed scholars even had the temerity to always look to Japan for some model of national language use as the engine for their economic growth and development, forgetting that Japan, not as diverse as the Philippines culturally and linguistically, had to resort to tactics of assimilation, and thus, tactics of denial, to all other Japanese of non-Japanese cultural and linguistic orientation.
We know that this ideological orientation paved the way to an educational practice that reflected the political dynamics of nation-state making that did not take into full account the contributions of our diverse cultures and languages in the making of the political reality of a nation-state. We did not take into account as well that repression can never become the premise of a real democracy, one that articulates and makes as a key virtue the recognition of the absolute rights of people to freedom. What went out of service in the scheme of things is tolerance even as the practice of discrimination by the newly inaugurated Philippine nation-state went on full steam. We forgot that “the practice of discrimination belittles as much as brutalizes people.”18 In the institution of a national language—and in the establishment of an educational regime based on that assumption of a national language as the instrument for the making of people into political citizens—we instituted discrimination, legitimized it, and effectively forgot the virtue of tolerance, the very foundation of democracy, as it “teaches us to live with difference and learn from it, to live with those who are different without considering ourselves superior or inferior.”19